Building Young Leaders: Victor Ortiz-Morales

Civic Nebraska's assistant coordinator at Lincoln's Campbell Elementary Community Learning Center is also studying to be an engineer. Victor Ortiz-Morales brings problem-solving, preparation, and knowing how to ask for help to his job of cultivating young civic leaders.

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Victor Ortiz-Morales is the assistant coordinator in the Community Learning Center at Lincoln’s Campbell Elementary School, which Civic Nebraska launched last year. In his role, Victor manages programs, activities, and staff who serve and guide more than 100 children before and after school each day. A graduate of Omaha North High School and a sophomore construction management major at the University of Nebraska’s College of Engineering, Victor is also developing a new robotics curriculum for all of Civic Nebraska’s CLCs and outside-of-school clubs. We recently caught up with Victor to learn more about how he approaches his role at the Campbell CLC.

I have to be honest. When I started at Campbell, I didn’t really expect to be in a position where I cared this much – to care more than just what my job was, to care about growing the program.

We’re building a legacy that will last. That’s one of the things that really encourages me, knowing that not only I am able to help make a program that encourages positive youth development, but also that I’m helping establish a relatively new one for those down the road.

Being a college student, there are other stress factors in my life, of course. I’m sure that’s true for all of our staff’s lives. What is special about this place is that we receive such positivity from it. We don’t see this as “child care” — we see it as “I’m going to go there and help these students succeed.” And that positivity comes back to us in so many ways. The students are helping us, as well.

The teachers at Campbell and the CLC staff work closely together. It’s important to have that strong connection. My morning ends with walking our students to the hallways outside their classrooms, where they wait a few minutes to start their school day. That’s when we’re in the classrooms, communicating with teachers. If a student is having a particularly hard day, we’ll share with teachers what they need to know in that situation. Same goes for if they’re having a really good day.

That’s my biggest role. I work to understand what every student might need on a particular day or at a particular moment in time, so they can go forward and have productive days.

It’s engineering, in a way. It’s a different kind of problem-solving. I like to think that I’m able to rely upon the right people. I certainly know that I’m not necessarily the right person for every job. I’ve had to find those who are able to do a great job where I might not. I’ve learned how to adapt.

The students at Campbell are resilient. They all have very strong character. They’re strong-willed, in the best sense of the term. Some of them face their fair share of adversity; others might not. But everyone has their own challenges. Working through those challenges takes resilience.

I hope the students will be able to say I gave them the tools to be able to be positive. Instead of focusing on a world full of negativity, imagining a world where they can apply their own positivity.

It’s very easy to just stay still and not advocate for yourself. Our public-school system is very good, and it’s extremely good for those who know how to advocate for themselves to take advantage of all that it offers. Unfortunately, not everyone always has the skills to advocate for themselves. So developing that critical skill of, “What can I do, so I can be where I want to be?” is what we often focus on. That’s important, and I think that’s part of why I enjoy it so much.

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